HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH ends, and in the pregnant moment of silence in the room, someone says “Well, I’ve never seen anything like that before.” Musical-comedy-drama from 2001 became a cult film (five minutes in you’ll figure that out) after good reviews failed to generate sufficient attendance. Bizarre, wildly inventive, acidly funny, ultimately poignant, played to the hilt, it was written & directed by John Cameron Mitchell, who stars in the lead role. *
A botched genital-reassignment surgery leaves gay East German teenager ‘Hedwig Schmidt’ with a bob-job. After his American soldier husband dumps him for someone else (in Kansas City on top of it, thanks a lot), Hedwig pursues a glam rock music career, but that dream is tarred by having protégé ‘Tommy Gnosis’ (Michael Pitt) steal his songs and become a star. Hedwig and his loyal bandmates stagger on, gamely supported by their manager (Andrea Martin), but Hedwig is more than a handful (so to speak).
Synopsis and attempts at description are woefully insufficient: this is a behold-and-hang-on experience. Beautifully acted, accompanied by clever animation, boosted by some ingenious musical numbers (“The Origin of Love” is the best, “Angry Inch” and “Sugar Daddy” next up): it’s a tour de force from the fearless Mitchell, who would go on to—among other projects—direct the excellent drama Rabbit Hole. Miriam Shor is remarkably good as ‘Yitzhak’, bandmate (and dude!). Co-star Stephen Trask wrote the music and lyrics.
Costing $6,000,000, it grossed $3,600,000. 92 minutes, with Rob Campbell, Alberta Watson, Sook-Yin Lee, Maurice Dean Wint, Rosie O’Donnell.
* Mitchell felt the weak box office was partly the result of having the bad timing to be released the day after the 9-11 attack. We’ll take this any day over the better-known, tasking screechfest The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert.